Michael Mols: What Could Have Been

Mols

Mols, Mols, Mikey Mikey Mols. Gets the ball scores a goal. Mikey Mikey Mols. 

That was a chant that often filled the Ibrox stands in the year 1999.

The Rangers fans had found a new hero in a Dutch forward who was seemingly hitting the peak of his career.

Gers manager Dick Advocaat had once again spotted a diamond in his homeland and purchased the prolific Michael Mols from  FC Utrecht for a £4m fee.

In the opening months of the 1999-2000 Scottish Premier League  season, that looked to be a bargain price as Mols rattled in goal after goal.

To me, the twenty-eight year old was a smiling assassin who just seemed to love his football. His grin would light up Govan and instantly the crowd adored him (me included).

In his first nineteen appearances for the Glasgow side, Mols racked up thirteen goals and four of them came in the illustrious Champions League competition.

The forward was even cheered as he smashed four goals past legendary Gers goalie Andy Goram, who by that time was paying in between the sticks for Motherwell.

Mols had a swagger about his game that was a joy to watch. He would often receive the ball with his back to goal and duck to go one way, send the defender a dummy and then Michael would simply turn and go the other way. Like Brian Laudrup before him, he had a jinky, wee trick that just bamboozled Scottish defences.

He also had an instinctive first touch finish that reminded me of one Dennis Bergkamp.

Many in Govan viewed him as Rangers answer to Henrik Larsson, who was also in lethal form for rivals Celtic early on in that same campaign.

But both men would suffer devastating injuries in Europe that year and it left plenty of Glaswegian football fans wondering if the two would ever be the same again.

When you watch the injuries as they take place (both of which happened within two weeks of each other). Larsson’s leg break, away to Lyon, looked the worse of the two injuries.

The Celtic hitman’s leg looked to have snapped in two with the lower part dangling off his knee. It was a double fracture that looked horrific.

Then on the third of November, Rangers would travel to Munich with the chance to reach the next round of the Champions League. All they needed to do was avoid defeat.

At that time Rangers were a decent outfit in Europe and did well in Germany with their passing game and managed to hit the woodwork three times. Many have since stated that the Scottish champions had the better of the exchange and could easily have taken something from the game.

Gers number nine Mols was looking good too, holding the ball up well and using his ticks and turns to get away from the opposition. As the first half went on he would strike the post with a glancing header.

Then came the moment that would turn Michael Mols career upside down.

Legendary German goalkeeper Oliver Kahn decided he had to come out as a makeshift sweeper and take the ball away from the toes of an oncoming Rodney Wallace. Kahn got to the ball first and cleared it to his left but he didn’t get enough purchase on it to see it go out of play.

He saw that it was now heading towards the on-rushing Mols, so Kahn had to continue his own run and see it out of play. That meant challenging Mols with a slide tackle.

Now Kahn didn’t actually do anything wrong, his commitment in the challenge was what his team needed at that moment.

But if you look back it wasn’t the cleanest of tackles. When I say that, I don’t mean it was particularly reckless or bad. It just wasn’t made from a seasoned defender. Kahn was a fairly big, cumbersome unit and in his tangle with the Mols, the Dutchman tried in vain to ride the challenge and as his left leg came down his foot got stuck in the turf and you can see Michael’s knee buckle.

The result was knee ligament damage and Mols was out for the rest of that season.

Then just three minutes after that incident Bayern won a penalty, scored it and held out for a 1-0 win and that scoreline eliminated Rangers from the competition.

Larsson was luckier in that his breaks were clean. He returned for Celtic’s last game of the season and even made it to Euro 2000 with Sweden.

In fact Henrik would end up scoring more after his injury than he did before it. He moved up a class and would become one of Europe’s best marksmen. He would win golden boots as well as titles with Celtic before winning the Champions League with Barcelona!

Mols would return the following year but was never the same player.

He seemed to miss that burst of pace that he had had previously. He would have to deal with more complications to his knee that would include a build up of fluid and he’d often go back to the Netherlands to see specialist after specialist in the hope to cure his problems once and for all.

That 2000/01 season saw him score seven times in twenty-one appearances including his first in an Old Firm game and two more in the Champions League.

In 2001/02 he was seen more as a player to come on from the bench rather than the hero that would influence things from the start. In his twenty-four outings he only managed to score two goals and they were both in the first half of the season.

In the next two seasons Mols would seem to manage himself better on the park, almost as if he’d decided to adapt his game to suit his ageing body and maybe just play through the pain.

It resulted in him playing more, he made eighty one appearances in those last two seasons and scored twenty six times.

During the 2002-2003 campaign he would help his side pick up the Scottish Premier League title.

He would leave Glasgow in the summer of 2004, taking with him two league winners medals, plus two Scottish Cup winners medals and two League Cup winners medals.

He deserved them all. He was a superb player who would light up the park with his trademark turns and his beaming smile.

Yes he had his ruthless streak in front of goal but he also had a temper that would boil over from time to time and he’d kick or karate slap an opponent and that would see him receive a red card.

In his last game for Rangers, Mols was named captain and managed to get himself sent off after only thirty-one minutes!

It kind of summed him up his time in Glasgow as he was always a bit unpredictable and his time was cut short before he could peak.

It’s easy to look back and ask what if and then map Mols career out near Larsson’s. Both similar in age and both were enjoying their seasons in 99′ before they were cruelly curtailed.

Mols certainly seemed to have the ability and the pedigree to step-up into a higher league and do well. But maybe he would have stayed at Rangers and become a club legend and carry on that rich vein of scoring form.

I do believe he would have gained more than his six Dutch caps he received before that injury in the late nineties.

But as I think about what could have been, I start to remember why I started this article in the first place.

The Michael Mols smile. It cropped up on my Facebook timeline on the day of the last Old Firm match at Hampden a few weeks ago.

My cousin was at the game and saw Mols outside the ground with the Rangers fans. He was glowing and smiling from ear to ear as he always did.

Looking at that picture, I understand there is no need to look back and think what might have been. It’s better to look at what happened after.

Yes he carried on for a few years in Holland, ending his career in Feyenoord in 2009. But his love for Glasgow Rangers never diminished and the Gers supporters love for him never wavered either.

They adored his skill-set, his goals, determination, passion and charm. They took him to their hearts and even when that injury seemed to rob him of his better years the fans never stopped loving him!

While I hate an element of Glasgow football that seems overly political, bigoted and bitter, it always makes me smile, nearly as big as Michael Mols’ to see a foreign player come in and fall in love with a club and for that club to show him just as much warmth.

E-Cigarettes Appear On Banned List For Euro 2016

UEFA_Euro_2016

Football fans planning to watch Euro 2016 in France this year may want to take a look at Uefa’s stadium rules as there are a number of things that are prohibited from being taken into the stadiums.

The usual suspects appear – fireworks, flares, gas spray cans, flammable substances, laser pens, drones, offensive banners or flags etc, but so do flagpoles – presumably to stop the English fans claiming the stadium in the name of the Queen, megaphones – as the German fans are loud enough perhaps, and even the star of South Africa World Cup in 2010, the Vuvuzela, is also not permitted in the stadiums.

E-cigarettes appear on the banned list for the very first time, having escaped Uefa’s radar for Euro 2012, which took place in Poland and Ukraine.

Although appearing on Uefa’s banned list, there is a bit of good news for vapers however. You can still take your e-cigarette into any of the stadiums, but unfortunately you can’t use it.

Unlike harmful second-hand tobacco smoke, e-cigarette use has no damaging passive effects, however, it is likely that e-cigarette users will be forced to vape in designated areas, just like smokers – or even with smokers, don’t you just love second-hand tobacco smoke

Speaking of drugs, most are banned from being taken into the stadium, however, medication is allowed on proven grounds and alcohol, as always, is a no, no, or a non, non in the terraces, but we can be pretty confident that official sponsor Carlsberg will want to sell beer by the gallon load.

Other items on the banned list include umbrellas (to stop the Russians taking out any spies perhaps?), helmets (Germans again?) and ‘unwieldy’ objects like ladders, stools, chairs, large bags and suitcases. Items that exceed 25cm x 25cm x 25cm are considered unwieldy, if you’re wondering – or need to measure anything beforehand.

Cans, bottles and jugs, whether they are made from glass, plastic or non-shatterproof materials will be also disallowed, so please remember not to take your favourite e-liquid to the stadiums with you.

E-Cigarette-Electronic

Vaping in France

France has the highest number of e-cigarette users in Europe at nearly 3 million, but the country is at odds with e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes cannot be used on public transport, in enclosed places and anywhere that children are present.

It is a very strong possibility that the official French stance towards e-cigarette use will become even more severe, especially as the country’s top health authority is pushing for e-cigarettes to be banned in restaurants, cafes and nightclubs.

Euro 2016 promises to be a feast of quality football and if you’re a vaper and lucky enough to have match tickets, please remember to keep your e-cigarette tucked away.

Is Celtic Captain Scott Brown Morphing Into Barry Ferguson?

Scott_Brown

Watching Celtic captain Scott Brown struggle to cover the Hampden pitch against Rangers earlier in the month I started to think that he’d morphed into Barry Ferguson, during the former Gers captain’s later years.

Both midfielders would talk a good game beforehand, would show passion through gritted teeth and would shout their heads off as frantic games passed them by.

Now I am not one that is critical of a player just because of one game, yes the Old Firm is a huge encounter but even the best players have had an off day.

But it seems like the Scottish international has been more disappointing than not this term both for club and country and both domestically and in Europe. He has played thirty-three times during this campaign, where he’s only managed one goal and one solitary assist. That simply isn’t good enough.

The bigger games seem to be passing him by and that can’t go on. Issues still surround his overall fitness and he doesn’t seem as sharp and also seems to becoming slower.

Last season before the League Cup final Brown was pictured on the street full of the bevy. The club and manager Ronny Deila stated that it wasn’t a major issue.

After the Cup Final, which Brown was awarded man of the match for his performance, Deila said:

“Scott was home at 10.30pm, although it looks like he was home at 6 in the morning. He was drinking, he had a day off the day after. I have no rules about that. I’ve said the players have to be fit and Scott Brown is the fittest player we have.”

That flies in the face of Deila’s previous comments about his players being ’24 hour athletes’.

But a year on the truth is that Brown is no longer Celtic’s fittest player and he often plays like a shadow of his former self.

Now I said at the time it might have been better for Deila to have been more ruthless with Brown and shown the squad that he cannot be crossed with.

Walter Smith’s influence on his Rangers squad was only strengthened when he stripped the captaincy off Barry Ferguson when he too had his issues with alcohol and bad press coverage.

Brown, like Ferguson often did at the end of his career, is trying to play on reputation alone and at the moment is shows up badly.

If the central midfielder isn’t fit enough then he has to manage himself better and the club have to manage him better too.

You cannot question his commitment to the cause but sometimes that over commitment can harm his body and harm the team. That’s why a confident coach should take him aside and possibly play him less or give him a period of time off as he recuperates and heals his body.

I am not going to write Scott off, that would be far too easy and naive. Plus with the right guidance I’m sure the soon to be thirty-one year old can turn things around.

Also sometimes just a change in manager can revitalise the squad and/or bring in a few new faces that could add competition and create hunger in Brown’s belly.

One thing is for sure though, Scott Brown has to try and learn from this season and improve next term.

He said he wants more titles but talk is cheap in football, next season he’ll have to prove his ambition on the park.

The Main Reasons Why Celtic Won’t Hire Malky Mackay

Paradise

So Malky Mackay has thrown his hat into the ring and declared that he is interested in becoming the next Celtic manager.

But let’s not kid anyone on here, I probably have more chance to taking over at Celtic Park than Malky has.

Let’s get straight to the point with the huge elephant in the room when we always talk about Mackay and a prospective new job.

The leaked emails and texts that show the Scotsman using racist, sexist and homophobic language will see him as a hugely problematic and unwelcome candidate that the Celtic board just wouldn’t touch.

Celtic have always acted as a socially moral football club, obviously certain things happen that make people question that but by appointing Malky Mackay with his past, that would see the board openly defy that image and that in turn would create an even greater rift between the board and the fans.

Now some people will come out and state that the FA never brought charges to Malky Mackay relating to his private communications. Some will suggest that he was actually a victim of an unfair smear campaign from Cardiff City owner Vincent Tan. Some will say that he has apologised for the inappropriate language that he used and he has since went on courses to learn more about diversity and equality and now deserves a second chance.

But even if you can forgive Mackay for the scandalous texts, you cannot forget that he’s actually already had his second chance at Wigan Athletic in the English Championship.

He arrived amid complaints from the ‘Let’s Kick It Out’ campaign, opposition from the club’s fans and a sponsor even pulled their support for the club.

But in his four and a half months in charge things went from bad to worse at the Latics and they were sitting in the relegation zone when he was sacked and they never recovered. He simply failed to get the players to get on board to his way of thinking and couldn’t get positive results.

In the end Wigan lost sixteen games in his twenty-five games in charge at the DW Stadium and he left with a 20% win record.

Is that the record of a boss that Celtic will want to bring in? Especially when you factor in all the baggage that comes with his appointment. The answer? Not in a million years.

He simply doesn’t have the record or talent to make people forget the tarnished history he carries with him.

Now he talks a lot of sense when he mentions a ‘strategic plan’ but it is all just sound bites that every out of work manager says when talking up their own potential. Billy Davies was saying the same kind of stuff just a few weeks ago.

In the Daily Record they talk about him travelling around the football world learning methods from some of the best clubs and coaches but again the same goes for every out of work gaffer currently on the dole.

Malky also mentions his Celtic career and that might also count against him. His time at Celtic was never seen as being anything more than average. In five years he only managed to secure thirty-four league appearances.

As he wasn’t viewed as a fan favourite during his spell as a player, so the Parkhead fans won’t give him time to make mistakes as a manager. They would afford that time to a Henrik Larsson or a Neil Lennon. As soon as Mackay made a mistake they would pounce on it. Just look what happened to Tony Mowbray and at least he didn’t have the same racist baggage that comes with Mackay.

Does Malky Mackay deserve another chance to manage a football team? That’s not for me to answer, that will be for owners and boards to decide.

I just don’t think he has done enough to suggest he merits the chance to manage a big club like Celtic or return to the English top flight.

Malky has to lower his expectations and prove himself again at a smaller club if he ever wants to return to the big time!

Keeping Eden Hazard Happy Should Be Conte’s Priority At Chelsea

E.Hazard

It has obviously been a poor season for Chelsea and it hasn’t been a coincidence that the ‘Blues’ fall from grace has been mirrored by the decline of star man Eden Hazard.

It is sometimes hard to remember that this Chelsea squad romped to the Premier League title under the guidance of legendary boss Jose Mourinho last season.

Belgian maestro Hazard was in sensational form that term, scoring fourteen times and creating nine assists in the league. That formed was justly rewarded with the PFA Player of the Year trophy.

Fast forward a year, Chelsea sit in ninth spot and Hazard has struggled to get anywhere near to the standards that he was playing at.

In fact the attacker only found his first goals of the season at Bournemouth yesterday, that shows you how poorly he has been this campaign.

But Hazard is only twenty-five and is far from past it as a match winning footballer. The 4-1 win over Bournemouth proved that.

It seems like it is all down to how you manage Eden Hazard. He needs to play with a freedom. He wants to be seen as the main man on the pitch and thrives on encouragement.

Mourinho seemed to struggle when it came to handling Hazard.

He was critical of him a few seasons back and that distracted the player. Last season he got it right and encouraged him by telling him how good he could be. Then this term it seemed to go wrong again with Jose possibly demanding too much from his top performer.

I think it would have been better to leave Hazard alone and just let him flourish without trying to rush him into becoming the next Messi or Ronaldo.

Antonio_Conte

This is where Antonio Conte comes in.

He’ll takeover at Chelsea this summer, once the Euros are finished.

Speculation over Eden Hazard’s future was rife in January with PSG and Real Madrid linked with moves. But his form didn’t improve and it seems Chelsea’s valuation of £70m hasn’t lowered, so it would be a huge gamble to pay so much for a out of form talent.

That could make Conte’s job of reassuring Hazard his future is still bright in London easier.

If he can convince Eden to once again shine at Stamford Bridge, then Chelsea could start next term in already terrific shape as they’d arguably have the Premier League’s best outfield player in their squad.

Obviously Chelsea could demand that Hazard stays no matter what. He still has four years to run on a very lucrative contract after all.

But it’s extremely important that Conte handles Hazard properly and can show him that he can be loved once again at the Bridge. Building the team around him would be an encouraging start.

But for it all to work out and for the world to talk about Hazard’s wonderful talents again the player himself has to turn up and show the Chelsea fans that he is determined to put things right. He will need to put on inspirational performances that gets the crowd on the edges of their seats.

One poor season doesn’t define a club or a player… It’s how they react to that dreadful campaign that counts now.

Hopefully Antonio Conte can take Eden Hazard aside and get the Belgian international pulling the strings again in the Premier League for Chelsea. If he can do that, then we will be talking about the forward getting back among the individual prizes again this time next year and the club could be once again challenging for a league title!

 

Manchester United Would Be Foolish To Keep Louis Van Gaal

Old Trafford

We have seen a few articles popping up in the last week that suggest that Manchester United are willing to give manager Louis van Gaal another year in charge of the club.

Now I know the Dutchman has a year left on his deal but for the life of me I just can’t see why United would decide to keep him at Old Trafford when improvements have been minimal.

Van Gaal has spent a huge amount of money since he took over the ‘Red Devils’ back in 2014. With that in mind he hasn’t won a trophy, they disappointed in the Champions League and with four games to go they aren’t currently in the Premier League’s coveted top four positions, although that may change between now and the fifteenth of May.

But even if they manage to secure a place in the top four, it will be down to other teams negligence rather than down to United’s superiority.

Going back to the transfer strategy, it’s been a mix bag to say the least.

Yes we have seen some big successes especially in young French striker Anthony Martial who looks like he’ll be a world beater within the next few seasons.

Question marks still surround £25m man Memphis Depay. The Dutch forward has shone on occasions but those occasions have been fewer rather than the norm. A lot of people have questioned his attitude and with Van Gaal working with him before he should have known his positive and negative traits.

I still don’t think Van Gaal knows the best way to utilise Ander Herrera or maybe he simply doesn’t trust the Spaniard which baffles many as Ander looks to be a player that should be running the United midfield.

Talking of midfielders, Bastian Schweinsteiger looks to be an iffy buy and that’s me being kind. You cannot argue with his pedigree but it looks like best years are behind him and he won’t play enough to make the desired impact throughout a full season.

Others like Marcos Rojo, Morgan Schneiderlin, Daley Blind and Matteo Darmian have enhanced the squad without setting the heather alight.

The biggest blunder for me was the sale of Angel di Maria.

The Argentine arrived after a strong showing in the 2014 World Cup and after helping Real Madrid win the Champions League. He was on cloud nine and one of the world’s most exciting attacking players. United paid a record £59.7m for the player.

Yet at Old Trafford Van Gaal would use him in various positions and hardly ever on the wing. The Dutchman wanted Di Maria to track back and that would stifle his creative talents. Even with that the Argentine international still managed to create ten assists, more than any other Man Utd player.

But instead of getting more out of Di Maria by playing him in his preferred position Van Gaal sanctioned his sale to PSG last summer and making a £15.7m loss on the player. Di Maria has went on to shine for the Paris club scoring ten domestic goals and creating twelve assists for the Ligue 1 champions, while playing predominantly on the right wing.

The Di Maria situation is simple, Van Gaal mismanaged him and failed to get the best out of him. That says a lot about the sixty-four year olds failure to adapt his philosophy to help improve the team.

After he left, Di Maria said he wasn’t overly fond of the United boss and that was key in his move to France:

“I didn’t get on very well with the coach, so I think the decision to join Paris was the best solution”

The treatment of well respected and liked goalkeeper Victor Valdes also looked odd.

Quite a lot of United’s faithful were also left unimpressed with how Van Gaal dumped players like Rafael, Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez. 

These are players who were loyal to United and would give everything for the ‘Reds’.

Man United have scored a paltry forty-two goals this term, that’s twenty less than Man City and Spurs have managed twenty-two more strikes.

Javier Hernandez has scored sixteen times for his new side Bayer Leverkusen, that’s more than any Man Utd striker has scored during this campaign.

So why did Van Gaal sell both Welbeck and Hernandez without bringing in better replacements?

Van Gaal’s biggest positives has been his willingness to give youngsters a run out for the first team.

That has seen the emergence of talent like Paddy McNair, Jesse Lingaard (not quite as young) and the exciting Marcus Rashford.

But every manager is judged on results and by Man United’s standards Van Gaal’s results have been pretty mediocre.

This season United have lost nine times in the league alone. Both Tottenham and Arsenal have convincingly beaten them 3-0. While in December they were defeated three games in a row against Bournemouth, Norwich and Stoke. They lost to Championship side Middlesbrough in the League Cup.

They were pretty limp in the Champions League and failed to get out of a group that had CSKA Moscow, PSV and Wolfsburg in it.

Then there was the Europa League debacle. It was seen as the ideal competition that would see the ‘Red Devils’ qualify for next seasons Champions League. But after struggling against Danish side FC Midtjylland, they were soundly beaten by bitter rivals Liverpool. In that tie they lacked spirit and fight, that type of display only angers the home support.

Talking of the fans, they have been been openly critical of Van Gaal’s tactics. They bellow out ‘Attack! Attack! Attack!’ when the team are failing to live up to their high expectations. They want to see more free flowing football, while Louis has his teams playing with the breaks on.

The shadow of Jose Mourinho is looming large over Old Trafford and lacklustre powerbroker Ed Woodward needs to grow a pair and give Van Gaal the bullet.

If he hesitates much longer then Manchester United may face up to next season without Champions League football and with Chelsea managed by Antonio Conte, Liverpool managed by Jurgen Klopp and Man City boss by Pep Guardiola.

I don’t think Louis van Gaal has it in him to make the improvements needed to get Man Utd challenging for top honours again. His ego always seems to get in the way.

So it’s probably the best time to get someone else in!

Ten Men That May Interest The Celtic Board

CP Front

So Ronny Deila has come out and told the world that he will be leaving Celtic this summer.

Not many will be surprised by this announcement as Deila has failed to take the Hoops forward and if anything they have declined under the Norwegian’s watch.

The Scottish Cup semi-final defeat to Rangers seems to have been the final straw for Deila and his time in Glasgow. He’ll obviously hope to leave on a slight high by winning yet another league championship.

This has seen the media jump all over themselves to speculate who may takeover at Parkhead. Many a Scottish journalist has had their black books out as they phoned every unemployed manager in Europe to see if they’d be interested in taking the hotseat.

Now why not jump on the bandwagon? Plus if I am going to jump on said bandwagon then I am going to do it in a big way!

So I’ve selected ten possible managers who may get a call from Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell in the up and coming weeks.

Neil Lennon: 

Well Lennon was the previous boss before Deila came in during the summer of 2014.

It was said that Neil had had enough of life in the Glasgow fishbowl and that the board didn’t meet his expectations or ambition when it came to buying new talent for the squad.

Now Lennon has came out and stated he’d like to be considered for the job again:

“If I get the chance to speak to the Celtic board then I will.” 

The former Celtic midfielder’s stock hasn’t risen after his tough fifteen month stint at Bolton Wanderers but many will remember his two league title triumphs and his big European wins.

He would relish taking on Mark Warburton’s Rangers and try and get the Scottish champions back in the Champions League.

Has enough changed since his last spell? Would the majority of Celtic fans want to see him back or bring in someone new?

At least Neil Lennon will know what to expect if he gets the job again.

Henrik Larsson: 

If Larsson isn’t the greatest Celt of all time then he’s certainly Celtic’s best ever foreign player and the best of his generation.

That acclaim will buy him time with the fans but it could also tarnish his hero status if it all goes wrong (Example: Ally McCoist).

The Swede has consistently said that he wishes to end his project with Helsingborgs IF at the right time, at the moment they are currently fourth bottom in the Swedish league. So would he quit at this time?

A great player doesn’t always make it as a great manager. I really don’t think he’s proven himself enough as a boss to be considered seriously for this role at this time.

Roy Keane: 

Supposedly Roy turned down the job before Ronny Deila took over in 2014. Again has enough changed at Celtic Park for him to takeover this time?

Keane has stated he is ready to return to club management and will probably be free after the Euros.

A man who divides opinion amongst the Hoops support. As a player he was controversial, opinionated and aggressive. That was OK because he had the ability to back it up. Now he seems to have gone into football management with the same attitude but not the ability to back it up.

Made a meal of it at both Ipswich and Sunderland, bringing in a lot of players and falling out with most of them.

But has a few years working under former Celtic great Martin O’Neil matured Keane enough to become a better manager?

He’s a big name that the board seem keen on.

David Moyes: 

Well the former Man United and Everton gaffer has plenty of English Premier League experience and can work to a budget.

Showed with the Toffees that given time he can turn things around at a club. Although he showed at Man Utd that he can get things spectacularly wrong. So which one would Celtic get?

His reputation has been dented after his time at Old Trafford and with his spell at Real Sociedad but he’d still want more say at Parkhead when it came to recruitment. Would the Celtic board give him that control?

The bookies favourite for what thats worth. Moyes has been heavily linked with the Aston Villa post.

Alan Stubbs: 

Former Celtic defender Stubbs has impressed at Hibs during his two seasons at Easter Road. Has the ability to get under Mark Warburton’s skin.

His chances may improve if he can secure Hibs their first Scottish Cup final win since 1902. Obviously stopping Rangers from claiming the trophy and getting into Europe would be extra special bonus.

His appointment wouldn’t create hysteria at Celtic Park and although he has impressed he still hasn’t won anything of note.

Garry Monk:

Is young and ambitious.

He had Swansea City playing attractive football when he was in charge. Possibly wasn’t given enough time to get things back on track at the Swans.

Would probably need someone with experience in beside him to help him. Could be viewed by the board as someone who wouldn’t demand as much control as the rest of the possible candidates.

Again lack of experience may harm his chances of getting this job.

Julen Lopetegui:

One for this thinking outside of the box.

The forty-nine year old had FC Porto playing some lovely football during his stint in charge at the Portuguese champions. He had an impressive 68% win ratio with the Dragons.

So he has experience managing a top club in a smaller European league. As a player he managed to play for both Real Madrid and Barcelona, so should be able to handle derby days.

Won the European U19 and U21 championships as their manager. So that pedigree of working with young players could interest the Celtic board.

His failure to win a major championship with Porto could be worrying for Celtic fans.

Brendan Rodgers: 

Another former English Premier League heavyweight who is looking for a new gig.

His passing, pressing and attacking philosophy can be extremely attractive when it is properly executed. Took Liverpool back into the Champions League which was a big achievement.

Would want to prove himself in his next job and could relish the chance of managing another big club.

His wage demands may put off the board and does he really want to manage in Scotland next?

Marcelo Biesla: 

The Argentine would certainly be the hipsters choice and he’d definitely bring a unique attacking brand of football that would excite Celtic fans early on.

But his methods and his sides often fall away in the second half of a season as opposing teams work out how to play them.

I doubt the Celtic squad would get fully behind his ideas.

Too much of a risk and that will put Lawwell off.

Ryan Giggs: 

The Manchester United hero was supposedly up in Glasgow earlier in the season and speculation mounted that he was up to discuss the Celtic job.

It looks like Louis van Gaal is about to depart at Old Trafford in the summer and if Giggs doesn’t takeover then I’d imagine he will look to try his luck elsewhere.

A chance to go to a strong side outside of England may interest the Welshman.

But again has he got the experience? I think Celtic would take a chance on him becoming the next Sir Alex Ferguson.

Squeaky Bum Time For Foxes With Spurs Ready To Pounce

Harry_Kane

It was hard looking at last weekend and not to think of it as being possibly a defining moment in the Premier League season.

League leaders Leicester City dropped two points at home to West Ham United.

In that game Foxes star striker Jamie Vardy saw red after he appeared to dive in the opposition box. That means the England international will miss Leicester’s next fixture. The forwards failure to keep his emotions under control after seeing Jon Moss brandish the red card could see Vardy out for another game as the FA charged him yesterday with improper conduct.

Missing the English striker, even for just one game, will be a huge blow for Foxes boss Claudio Ranieri and his side. Vardy has contributed to his clubs rise to the top by finding the net twenty-two times in the league and he’s also created six assists. He’s the type of striker that defenders hate as he is constantly chasing down lost causes and not giving the opposition a minutes peace.

Earlier in the month Jamie Vardy, along with equally impressive team-mates N’Golo Kante and Riyad Mahrez, was short-listed for the PFA’s Player of the Year award.

So as you can imagine a lot of footballing pundits are now looking on and wondering if Leicester City can keep cool and carry on and win the Premier League title. Many fantasy premier league managers will be worried how the suspension will affect their team.

The pressure on the Foxes was significantly increased last night when closest challengers Tottenham Hotspur dismantled Stoke City in the West Midlands.

No other team in the top five has managed to pick up a win at the Britannia Stadium this season but Spurs managed to blow away their opponents with a lethal display that was acknowledged in the 4-0 scoreline.

It’s fair to say that Tottenham are firing on all cylinders at the moment and are waiting to try and heap even more pressure on to the league leaders.

In Harry Kane they too have a prolific English marksmen as he leads the scoring charts with his twenty-four goals. Dele Alli has impressed everyone with his debut season in England’s top flight. While Danish creative star Christian Eriksen is currently a magician playing under the radar, who is capable of unlocking the meanest of defences.

Talking of mean defences, Spurs have a strong back-four and a world class goalkeeper between the sticks. So they are strong in every department.

So you can see why Tottenham Hotspur fans are starting to really believe that they might just snatch the title away form Leicester City’s clutches in May.

Now we are down to the final four games of the season for both sides and the gap is now down to five points.

That means the Foxes need to drop points in two of their final games of the season and for Tottenham not to slip up but to take advantage with victories of their own.

Leicester’s run in always looked more favourable to the other but now with four games remaining it suddenly doesn’t seem to be quite as easy as first thought.

First up they have Swansea at home on Sunday. That shouldn’t be too bad and if you could hand pick a fixture for Vardy to miss, it would probably be that one. The Swans have had a disappointing season and are in the bottom half of the table with only pride to play for. They’ve also just lost 3-0 to lowly Newcastle Utd. But beware they have picked up big wins over Arsenal and Chelsea in recent months.

After Swansea, Leicester travel to Manchester United. Now United may still be in the hunt for a top four finish so they won’t just lie down to their opponents just to help create a fairytale. Under Louis van Gaal, Man Utd have been unpredictable to say the least. But he has managed to get his players up for some of the bigger games.

In the penultimate game the Foxes host Everton at the King Power Stadium. Again, like Man United, Everton have been extremely erratic. But like United, the Toffees have players in their team capable of damaging Leicester City’s title chances. No team in the Premier League have drawn more games than Everton this term.

Finally City travel to London to take on last seasons champions Chelsea. Now we all know about Chelsea’s problems during this campaign, they’ve been so bad that the board had no option but to sack club legend Jose Mourinho. But veteran gaffer Guus Hiddink has stabilised the club and they look harder to beat (although even the wheels of Hiddink’s bus seems to be coming off). So could the former champions make one last stand?

Then we look at Tottenham’s remaining fixtures and they look slightly better, slightly!

First up is West Brom on Monday night. The Baggies haven’t secured a win in their last four attempts. In fact they’ve lost three of those fixtures. Now I doubt a Tony Pulis side will play in their sunglasses and sandals but it does look as thought a few of the WBA players have at least an eye on their passports. Can they rise to the challenge and keep Kane and co quiet at White Hart Lane? That’s a big ask!

A week later they play Chelsea. The only point I’ll add to the above about Chelsea is that they team might take some pleasure in stopping city rivals Spurs from taking their title.

On Sunday the eighth of May Spurs host Southampton. Again they’ll be facing a harden outfit that are well equipped to shatter their title dreams. It could be quite ironic that Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino’s side slip up against his former employers.

On the final day of the season Tottenham travel up to face Newcastle Utd. That could be the decider and not just the title decider. The Toon’s 3-0 win over Swansea last weekend gave Rafa Benitez men a glimmer of hope that they can get out of trouble and stave off relegation. Can you imagine the atmosphere if Spurs are there to win the championship and Newcastle are still fighting for their Premier League status?

See the reality is that either or even both sides slip up once or twice as the heat on them intensifies. Neither club have been in this position before in the Premier League era. It could be a case of waiting to see who blinks first loses.

Even as the title race hits the last stretch, it’s still tough to call the eventual winners.

It’s easy to write off Leicester City, hell I stated my belief that they’d be relegation fodder at the start of the campaign (how wrong was I?). But throughout this term they have defied the odds and managed to grind out the right results. The squad have stuck together and fought like, well like champions! Plus when called upon their star players have always shown up, which is why the Vardy suspension could be a crucial point.

Then you have Tottenham, the team that have loads of momentum and a squad that seems to be getting stronger by each minute they play together.

The only thing I know is that when its all said and done this season has baffled me no end and the eventual winners will deserve the crown!

Rangers Star Barrie McKay Shows He Is Ready For The Hampden Stage

 

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I was surprised that Gordon Strachan didn’t select Rangers youngster Barrie McKay for either of Scotland’s friendlies last month.

Since the turn of the year I’ve said, on here and on twitter, that I thought the winger was ready to take his place in Scotland’s senior squad. Alas Strachan felt uninspiring Celtic wide-man James Forrest deserved yet another call up.

But if Gordon Strachan had any doubts about Barrie McKay, then they would have surely been banished yesterday as the twenty-one year old showed that he was capable of shining in the biggest of games.

Against Celtic, McKay was simply sensational. He showed great composure on the ball, an incredible work ethic and had an attacking vibrancy that couldn’t be matched!

Obviously most people will point out his stunning wonder goal in extra time but in truth his overall game was sublime. Although I am sure he wont tire of seeing that goal back.

No one would have been happier to see Mark Warburton arrive at Ibrox last summer than Barrie. The English manager came in and told the squad, as well as the press, that he would pick a team that thrived with possession and wanted to attack their opponents. A players age would be unimportant as long as they fitted into the manager’s philosophy.

Under the previous managerial regime, headed by club legend Ally McCoist, McKay’s future looked bleak after a bright start. The forward would see less and less opportunities in the Gers first team and would be loaned out to Morton and then Raith Rovers.

He didn’t seem to make a huge impact away from Rangers during those loan spells and most Gers fans thought his time in Govan was going to peter out much like John Fleck’s. Yet another projected star would leave without making the desired impact.

But in Warburton, McKay has found a gaffer who believes in him and who has given him another chance to shine for the ‘Light Blues’. To his credit, Barrie has taken that chance with both hands.

The young attacker knows Warburton will show him loyalty as long as he gives his all to the team:

“The manager has given me a chance from the start of the season and I’ve played in just about every game, so it shows you how much confidence he has in me.”

The winger does works hard, has created a strong partnership with his two full-backs and looks to attack the opposition. Those are qualities the Tartan Army love to see in their wingers.

Against Celtic his fitness levels were highly commendable and he didn’t give their defence a chance to take a break as he glided from one wing to the other.

He showed the same strong attitude and performance against Dundee in the previous round, showing he is ready to step up to the Scottish Premiership and get a chance to stake a claim for a place in Scotland’s upcoming World Cup qualifying campaign.

In fact he’s done it all season.

It was fantastic to see a young Scottish winger shine on the biggest game of his team’s season and come away with the man of the match award.

Hopefully now Gordon Strachan can now reward the youngster with a deserved international call-up come the end of May. That would cap off a superb turnaround in Barrie McKay’s fortunes at Rangers.

Rangers Dump Celtic Out Of The Cup… Time For Celtic To Dump Deila!

17 Sound of Celtic

The better team on the day won out at Hampden, as Rangers saw off Glasgow rivals Celtic in a penalty shoot-out and now the Gers will play Hibs in the Scottish Cup final in May.

The blue half of Glasgow won most of the key battles on the park as they showed more heart, desire and had the greater amount of possession and used the ball well!

For large parts of the game Celtic looked sluggish and second best. That will be very hard to take for Hoops fans considering their sides lead in Scotland’s top tier, while today’s victors are still in the Championship.

Last season when the two sides met in the League Cup semi, Celtic dominated and looked a good few classes above Rangers.

But fast forward a year and the gap has dramatically decreased, to the point no one would have thought Celtic were a full league superior than their opponents.

Celtic are a team in decline and a lot of that responsibility falls at the managers door.

Ronny Deila almost lost this game before a ball was kicked. He failed to pile on the pressure on new Gers boss Mark Warburton.

In the week leading up to the game the Norwegian came across as nervous, weak and naive. That made things easier for Warburton.

When Ronny arrived in Glasgow in the summer of 2014 and stated that his squad would become fitter and stronger. We heard of news stories about him banning certain foods and doing certain training sessions.

But today Rangers looked far fitter. So what has happened to Deila’s fitness regime? His side cost more than Rangers, have more experience and yet look laboured and past it.

Captain Scott Brown was a shadow of his former self and lost the midfield battle to Andy Halliday. Stefan Johansen was player of the year last term but he’s hardly kicked a ball this season. Too many players have gone back the way and seem to be hiding.

Deila’s teams also seem to fail to find a game plan or cohesion. That is abundantly to anyone who has watched Celtic in Europe this season.

Yes they managed to peg back Rangers twice but they never truly dominated the game or showed that they can be a good footballing side. That will gaul Celtic supporters.

The fact is Rangers weren’t even at their strongest and Celtic on paper have a much better squad will infuriate the faithful too.

Now maybe Deila will say bad luck cost his Celtic side and that it wasn’t their day. But those aren’t justifiable excuses in an Old Firm game, especially when the other side plays better and with more heart.

Special mention needs to be given to young left-back Kieran Tierney. The eighteen year old was a star and gave his all. If every Celtic player had played with his passion and composure then they’d have won that game.

A few of Deila’s team selections puzzled me too.

For instance why didn’t Erik Sviatchenko start the game? Even before his injury Dedryck Boyata looked woeful and out of his depth and that has happened a few times this season. Whereas the Danish international has looked more settled since his winter arrival. Now the injury concerns couldn’t have been that great when you consider he eventually played for more than ninety minutes.

Sviatchenko was immense when he came on. Obviously he scored and was a danger from set-pieces but he also won most of his challenges and aerial battles. Celtic were much stronger with him at the back and most of the fans would have told you that before the game!

Then there was the fact that Kris Commons was never used. Commons is a big game player and thrives against Rangers, yet he stayed on the bench. As I stated earlier, Johansen has constantly struggled this term, yet he seems untouchable as does Brown.

The Celtic boss also seems to struggle to get the best out of his attacking players such as Gary Mackay-Steven, James Forrest and Stuart Armstrong. There are good players in there, the manager is tasked to get the the best out of them.

This isn’t a knee-jerk reaction to the situation of Celtic losing narrowly to Rangers on a penalty shootout. That game once again just emphasises how things have declined at Parkhead.

I stated after the exits in Europe and after the many slip-ups in the Premiership that Celtic needed to let Deila go in the summer.

But do the board listen to the fans and dump the Norwegian or do they give everyone else in Scotland’s top flight a chance by keeping Deila in charge?

The truth is no one knows because the board are a huge reason for their sides decline? If they do replace Ronny Deila, then it will only be done to save their own necks!